After months of negotiations, the U.N. inspectors went to Syria to visit the sites of three alleged chemical attacks earlier this year and were in the capital of Damascus on Aug. 21 when reports and videos began surfacing of a shelling attack in which victims experienced shortness of breath, disorientation, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, weakness and a loss of consciousness.
They finally gained access to three towns where the Aug. 21 attack occurred, and on one occasion their convoy was hit by sniper fire, but the inspectors were nonetheless able to collect a large amount of material and talk to survivors and witnesses.
“The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used ... in the Ghouta area of Damascus,” their report said.
“The conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale,” they said. “This result leaves us with the deepest concern.”
The rebels and their Western and Arab supporters have blamed Assad’s regime for the attack in the rebel-controlled area of Ghouta. The Syrian government insists the attack was carried out by rebels. The U.N. report mentions the Ghouta areas of Ein Tarma, Moadamiyeh and Zamalka, all of which were featured in videos of victims that emerged after the attack.
The U.N. report did not mention how many people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack. The U.S. says more than 1,400, but other death toll estimates have been far lower.
The report cited the following evidence to support its conclusions:
— Rockets and fragments were found to contain sarin. “Several surface-to-surface rockets capable of delivering significant chemical payloads were identified and recorded at the investigated sites,” the investigators said.